SARASOTA, FL – Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) is pleased to collaborate with The Patterson Foundation to offer three free staged readings of a new one-act play – written by award-winning playwright and educator Beth Duda, who will also direct – “Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, A Walk to Respect.”
Two readings take place on Wednesday, February 19 and Thursday, February 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center (7333 Scotland Way, Sarasota). An additional reading will take place on Friday, February 21 at 10 a.m. at the Manatee Community Foundation (2820 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton). Tickets are free but reservations are required – go to ThePattersonFoundation.org/a-walk-to-respect for more information and reservations.
This special WBTT Voices offering is presented as part of The Patterson Foundation’s “Honoring & Onward” initiative, a celebration of the Foundation’s decade of impact through people, organizations, and communities while continuing to connect, learn, share, evolve, and strengthen their efforts to realize shared aspirations.
Black abolitionist leader and former slave, Frederick Douglass, and the 16th President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln, clashed in their ideologies regarding race, politics and slavery. Douglass, a true radical with a fiery spirit, believed in racial equality for everyone: he dedicated his life, writings and career to abolishing slavery everywhere. Lincoln – who was cautious and considered – while opposed to slavery was first and foremost a patriot intent on preserving the Union at all costs. These two self-made men – at a time when our divided nation faced annihilation – faced their differences with courage and compassion, forging a friendship that helped to end the Civil War and reunite our nation. Through their own words, explore the walk of these two great American leaders from conflict to understanding.
“These two visionary leaders had a bond earned through learning from and sharing with each other during one of the most dynamic times in our nation’s history,” said Duda, who also serves as director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading for The Patterson Foundation. “With engagements like this, Honoring & Onward highlights what’s possible when people connect around a common goal while recognizing all that our region has accomplished through this approach during The Patterson Foundation’s decade of work.”
The role of Abraham Lincoln will be played by Michael Krebs, who has portrayed Lincoln in film and presentations throughout the U.S. since 1994. Krebs is a native of Freeport, Ill. and a former company member of New American Theater in Rockford, Illinois. He was cast as Lincoln in the 2014 film “Field of Lost Shoes.” He has made numerous appearances at presidential libraries and historical sites. In 2014, he was invited by The Patterson Foundation to participate in the national dedication of Patriot Plaza at Sarasota National Cemetery.
The role of Frederick Douglass will be played by Joel PE King, a native of East Saint Louis. King is an entrepreneur, performer, writer, director and producer. His production company, JPEK CreativeWorks, has enjoyed success in creating quality, courageous, socially-driven stage plays. His stage works include “Real Life,” “Issues of Love” and “Stand Your Ground.” King’s theatre credits include WBTT productions of “The Amen Corner,” “The Color Purple,” “The Sam Cooke Story” and “Knock Me a Kiss.” He received a Kevin Kline nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical for his work in “Complacency of Silence.” King has also earned leading and supporting roles in independent films and television.
Spoken word poet Cedric Hammed will serve as the narrator. Hameed is a fierce arts advocate who believes that local, national and global change can be accomplished through expression; evidence of his philosophy can be seen in the student and parent voices of Visible Men Academy, where he is a teacher. A native of Schenectady, N.Y, Hammed used words as an escape from his harsh realities and has said, “Poetry saved my life – literally!”
“At WBTT, our focus continues to be on the African-American experience and topics,” said WBTT executive director Julie Leach. “We are pleased to partner with The Patterson Foundation to explore the remarkable relationship between Lincoln and Douglass. Particularly in today’s highly partisan environment, we feel this material offers important lessons about overcoming differences to achieve a common goal.”
The WBTT Voices program, a free service WBTT offers for the community, examines the people and issues that have shaped the African-American experience in our country. WBTT Voices was launched in 2014; nearly all programs have been at full capacity. Another WBTT Voices program, “From Pen to Stage,” will be presented on March 4 at 4 p.m. at WBTT. The program, featuring playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, is presented in partnership with The Hermitage Artist Retreat. Tickets are free but reservations are required; go to westcoastblacktheatre.org for tickets.
About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe
Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida, Inc. is the only professional black theater company on Florida’s West Coast. Its mission is to produce professional theater that promotes and celebrates the African-American experience, to attract diverse audiences, to support and develop African-American artists, and to build the self-esteem of African-American youth. For more information, visit westcoastblacktheatre.org or call 941-366-1505.
About The Patterson Foundation
The Patterson Foundation strengthens the efforts of people, organizations and communities. The Foundation focuses on issues that address common aspirations and foster wide participation, along with ways organizations learn and share as they evolve. For more information, please visit www.thepattersonfoundation.org and connect with @ThePattersonFdn on Twitter.